Well-constructed and gripping


Jane Harper

If you’ve ever thought about going on one of those team-building weekends, this book may put you off completely.

A  group of office workers — five men and five women — head into the Giralang Ranges near Melbourne. Carrying  backpacks and wearing unfamiliar hiking gear, they’re supposed to find their first campsites — the men and women are in separate teams — by Thursday evening. Both teams achieve that,  but nothing else goes well from then on.

On Sunday afternoon, the men return to base as planned. Much later, four frightened and exhausted women turn up. None of them knows where the fifth, Alice Russell, has got to. Or so they tell the police and the searchers.

Russell’s disappearance is a double cause of concern for two members of the Federal police: she is supposed to be providing information about possible money laundering in her company. Is her disappearance linked to this, or is there some other factor at play?

Harper skilfully shifts her story back and forth between what appears to have happened  and what really did go on. We discover that the five women, rather than team-building, have been at odds with each other from the start.

The various elements of the story, which include the possibility of a serial killer’s son loose in the ranges somewhere,  grip the reader from page one.

- Mike Crowl is a Dunedin author, musician and composer.

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